Penn State entomologists appointed to national committee on pollinator research

two headshots side by side

This article was originally published January 29, 2024 in Penn State Today.

By Amy Duke

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Two entomologists in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences have been appointed to serve on a new U.S. Department of Agriculture subcommittee on pollinators.

Margarita López-Uribe, Lorenzo L. Langstroth Early Career Professor and associate professor of entomology, and Christina Grozinger, Publius Vergilius Maro Professor of Entomology and director of the Penn State Center for Pollinator Research, were among nine members from across the country selected for the committee.

As members of the subcommittee, they will advise the National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics Advisory Board on pollinator research priorities. The board advises the secretary of agriculture and land-grant colleges and universities on top priorities and policies for food and agricultural research, education, extension and economics.

The appointments acknowledge the scientists’ significant impact on pollinator research, noted Blair Siegfried, associate dean for research and graduate education and director of the Pennsylvania Agricultural Experiment Station.

“We are proud that Margarita López-Uribe and Christina Grozinger have been appointed to this esteemed national committee,” he said. “This achievement is a resounding testament to their steadfast dedication to research excellence and shines a spotlight on the unparalleled expertise of these world-renowned scientists. Their unwavering resolve reinforces our college’s commitment to advancing pollinator well-being globally.”

As an evolutionary ecologist, López-Uribe is broadly interested in understanding how the evolutionary history of pollinators plays a role in their ecology and persistence in the face of environmental change. Her studies have demonstrated the adaptive processes of bee pollinators to agriculture and how the interaction of pathogens and thermal stress affect pollinator health. She co-leads the most extensive research program on organic beekeeping management in the United States.

López-Uribe, who also is an extension specialist in pollinator health for Penn State Extension, has published 55 peer-reviewed papers and 27 extension publications. She has received external funding of more than $8.1 million for her research and extension program at Penn State, and she has achieved international recognition as the invited keynote speaker at international conferences in Australia, Brazil, Colombia and Canada.

Heavily involved in extension and outreach, López-Uribe serves as a mentor to younger scientists who are passionate about pollinators. She has mentored 12 graduate students and 10 postdoctoral scholars from diverse backgrounds and research interests at Penn State. She served as the president of the American Association of Professional Apiculturists for the past two years.

López-Uribe earned her doctorate at Cornell University and was a U.S. National Science Foundation postdoctoral research fellow at North Carolina State University before joining Penn State in 2016. She received the Entomological Society of America’s Early Career Research Award in 2018, an NSF CAREER award in 2021, and the Distinguished Achievement Award in the Promotion of Diversity and Inclusion in the Field of Entomology from the Entomological Society of America in 2022.

Grozinger joined Penn State’s Department of Entomology in 2008. Her research program explores the biology and health of wild and managed bees — including evaluating the impacts of stressors on bees — assessing plants for nutritional quality for pollinators, monitoring and modeling pollinator health at the national scale, and developing decision support tools for diverse stakeholders.

She leads a team of collaborators from several universities nationwide in developing Beescape, which features decision-support tools to predict bee health at local scales so that the public, growers, land managers and conservationists can better understand and mitigate stresses. Grozinger also leads INSECT NET, a new National Science Foundation-funded graduate training program that integrates entomology, ecology, computer science and engineering to develop nonlethal, automated monitoring tools for insects.

Additionally, Grozinger is a fellow of the Entomological Society of America and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2021, she received the National Academy of Sciences Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences. Her research has led to more than $23 million in funding, one book, six book chapters, and 150 research articles that have received more than 18,000 citations.

As director of the Center for Pollinator Research and Insect Biodiversity Center at Penn State, Grozinger collaborates across nine colleges. She has secured more than $1.5 million in endowments to fuel research, outreach efforts, extension programs and scholarships.

Grozinger promotes pollinator and biodiversity conservation with stakeholder groups and policymakers. She serves on the Science Policy Committee for the Entomological Society of America, as the panel manager for the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Pollinator Health Research Program, and on the committee for drafting the North American Pollinator Conservation Framework for the Commission for Environmental Cooperation.

Grozinger also led the development of Pennsylvania’s Pollinator Protection Plan and co-organized the International Conference on Pollinator Biology, Health and Policy, hosted at Penn State in 2023.

She assisted in developing the four-acre Pollinator and Bird Garden at the Arboretum at Penn State, which welcomes more than 100,000 visitors annually. As a Penn State Extension Master Gardener, Grozinger engages with this group to support pollinator education and the development of pollinator gardens across the state.